Amina Souafi

United States imposed fresh sanctions on Iran
Middle East & Africa

United States imposed fresh sanctions on Iran

According to ‘Reuters’, the United States imposed fresh sanctions on Iran on Tuesday, keeping up its economic pressure campaign even as it offered to help Tehran cope with the coronavirus pandemic and called on the Islamic Republic to release detained Americans. Iran is considering freeing some U.S. citizens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference where he made clear Washington will maintain its maximum-pressure campaign to choke off Tehran’s ability to export its oil. The campaign, instituted after US President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran struck with six major powers, aims to force Iran to limit its nuclear, missile and regional activities.

Pompeo on Tuesday stated that the US State Department is blacklisting nine organizations based in South Africa, Hong Kong and China, as well as three Iranian citizens, for engaging in “significant transactions” to trade in Iranian petrochemicals. While he didn’t name them, Pompeo said the step included banning Iran’s armed forces social security investment company and its director for investing in sanctioned entities. The Commerce Department also said it will add six people – including five Iranian nuclear scientists – and 18 corporations to the U.S. “Entity List” for aiding Iran’s nuclear program, Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear and missile programs, and Russian military modernization efforts.

The Commerce Department said the move covers one corporation in Iran, two entities in China, nine in Pakistan, and five in the United Arab Emirates and will constrict the export of certain items to them. The Entity List names foreign parties that are banded from receiving some or all items subject to U.S. export regulations unless the exporter secures a license, according to the department. Earlier on Monday -Reuters add – sources familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the file said the United States was unlikely to ease sanctions on Iran despite a demand from China to don’t do it because of the pandemic. Pompeo urged Iran to free American citizens detained as a humanitarian gesture because of coronavirus. Iran has recorded 16,169 coronavirus cases and 988 deaths.

US officials respond to Reuters report about the secrecy of the discussion on Corona.

US officials respond to Reuters report about the secrecy of the discussion on Corona.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said before the US Congress that the public health officials had discussed information about the Corona virus in halls to discuss secret matters on numerous occasions. But he said that this information was not treated as confidential.

In a report on Wednesday, Reuters quoted four administration officials as saying the White House had ordered federal health officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to consider private high-level meetings on the virus.

Officials said that dozens of these meetings were held since mid-January in the heavily fortified hall of the secret meetings of the Health Ministry, which oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that workers who did not obtain security clearances were excluded from their attendance.

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After the report was released, National Security Council spokesman John Elliot sent an e-mail to Reuters on Wednesday evening saying that “the White House has not issued any orders” to treat high-level Corona virus meetings as confidential, “as stated in the report.

“This report is fake news,” he wrote.
“We are holding them in secret rooms, but the nature and content of these talks is not secret,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, was asked about the Reuters report.

The Vice President’s office sent a joint statement from Health Secretary Alex Azar and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien saying that they were “surprised” by the Reuters report and that the meetings of Vice President Mike Pence’s working group are taking place in the White House emergency room and are not confidential.

However, the Reuters report did not address the vice president’s working group, which Pence began to lead in late February. “We are sticking to our report,” a Reuters spokeswoman said.

The Reuters report focused on the meetings that took place at the Health Ministry, and sources said that it was held in a secret room with restrictions on those present, such as banning the use of most mobile phones.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that they could not describe the deliberations in these rooms for their confidentiality, but said that the research topics included the extent of the virus, quarantine issues and travel restrictions.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said his office had called the White House to ask about the Reuters report because he was concerned about the possibility of excessive confidential information, an issue he had previously raised.

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Diplomat: America has not coordinated the European Union regarding the travel ban.

Diplomat: America has not coordinated the European Union regarding the travel ban.

A European diplomat said that the United States did not coordinate with European officials on a widespread travel ban from Europe to limit the spread of the Corona virus before US President Donald Trump announced the decision.

The diplomat, who was not authorized to speak about the matter publicly, said that Trump said in a televised speech that his government was in constant contact with US allies over the 30-day travel ban but the bloc officials had not received notification of the decision before it was announced, adding, ” There is no prior notification or coordination as the president claimed. “

The European Union mission to Washington has not commented on the decision yet. Trump’s decision to ban travel from Europe to the United States, with the exception of Britain, from Friday, may complicate already tense trade ties between Brussels and Washington. On Wednesday, Phil Hogan, the European Union’s trade commissioner, canceled his planned visit to Washington.

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The US President, Donald Trump, announced in a speech addressed to the Americans, that the United States will prevent travel to European countries except Britain from Friday for 30 days, and Trump made clear that measures have been taken to reduce the impact of the virus crisis on Americans.

Trump said that the United States is able to cope with the Corona virus, adding that a decrease in the number of infected people has been recorded in the past days.

Trump pointed out that the European Union has taken real steps to prevent the spread of the Corona virus, and Washington has taken serious steps also in this regard, and Trump added that his country has allocated more than $ 8 billion to confront the Corona virus, and to help those affected by the epidemic.

Guinea elections: experts recommend removing 2.5 million names from electoral lists.
Middle East & Africa

Guinea elections: experts recommend removing 2.5 million names from electoral lists.

West African experts missioned to help Guinea out of the political crisis recommend removing nearly 2.5 million names from the lists initially selected for a referendum coupled with legislative elections, according to a document consulted by the AFP. This number represents one-third of the file names that was originally intended for a constitutional referendum and parliamentary election scheduled for March 1st.

The government has postponed these consultations at the last moment, in a context of strong tensions, sharp contestation on the part of the opposition and criticisms emanating from the international community. Guinea has been plagued since October by demonstrations against President Alpha Condé’s intention to run for a third term in late 2020. At least thirty-one civilians and a gendarme have been killed since.

“The organization of the referendum on a new Constitution and its coupling with the legislative elections postponed several times were to serve Mr. Condé to carry out his project”,said the opposition. The latter, specifically denouncing an electoral file rigged and disproportionate to the country’s population, had decided to boycott the polls of March 1st.

A few days before that date, she had been supported by the International Organization of Francophonie, which had accompanied the electoral process, which had deemed 2.49 million names on the electoral lists “problematic”. After the deferral of votes on March 1st, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which Guinea is a member, dispatched an expert mission, hoping to reach a reliable file allowing transparent consultations in which the opposition could participate.

These experts noted that, on the list of 7.76 million voters communicated by the Guinean electoral commission, 2.44 million “have no supporting documents”, indicates a document transmitted to this commission. “The mission strongly recommends the withdrawal” of these voters, according to the document. It also notes more than 38,000 cases of potential duplication on the lists and recommends that these cases be reviewed for further validation.

The electoral commission adopted the experts’ recommendations, said its president Amadou Salifou Kébé on Facebook. “We will implement the recommendations tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” he added, without any indication of the effect that such an implementation would have on the new electoral calendar.

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Putin supporting a constitutional amendment that allows him to stay in power

Putin supporting a constitutional amendment that allows him to stay in power

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to seek another term and remain in power. Today, Putin lent his support to the amendment presented by a female lawmaker, an astronaut and the first Soviet woman to go into space.

The legislator Valentina Tereshkova proposed either abolishing the limits of the presidential term or amending the Russian constitution to allow Putin to run again. A series of constitutional amendments will be made and voted nationwide on April 22.

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For his part, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, opposed the proposal to abolish restrictions on the presidential term, saying that this authority should not be related to one person, and stressed that there is no need for early parliamentary elections.

Putin said, in a speech in the State Duma on the issue of constitutional amendments: “The president is the one who is considered the guarantor of the constitution, or in the simplest words the guarantor of the security of our country and its internal stability, especially for its developmental growth, because we have just lived through a sufficient number of revolutions.”
Putin added that he was certain that the presidential power in Russia would not be embodied by one particular person, adding that he understood that the president plays a big role in achieving this.

Putin indicated that his country is currently facing several challenges, including the risk of the Coruna virus spread and instability in the global economy, but he stressed that Russia will surpass this stage in a way that is worthwhile.
The Russian President added, “For this reason, I believe that removing the restrictions on the Presidents’ states number in the constitution is futile.”

Nevertheless, Putin pointed out that the approval of the constitutional amendment, which was submitted by the State Duma and stipulated that the number of its states be increased, is possible if the constitutional judiciary agrees to this in an official ruling that will confirm that such action will not contradict the principles of the constitution.

He stressed that the president’s authority must remain strong in Russia, considering that it is not possible to implement a system of parliamentary governance in it.

He stressed the need to avoid duplication of power, including by granting presidential powers to the State Council, which he plans to form in the event that constitutional amendments are adopted during the general vote in the country, stressing that duplication will lead to an inevitable division in society.

The Russian President also considered that there is no need to hold any early parliamentary elections if the constitutional amendments are approved. The current law limits the presidents to assuming power for two consecutive terms.

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Afghan decree: The government will release 1,500 Taliban prisoners
Asia Pacific Focus

Afghan decree: The government will release 1,500 Taliban prisoners

A copy of an Afghan decree seen by Reuters showed that President Ashraf Ghani will release 1,500 Taliban prisoners in the next few days to pave the way for direct talks with the militant movement aimed at ending the 18-year old war in Afghanistan.
The decree, to be issued on two pages and bearing the signature of Ghani, and which the President’s office will announce later, states that all released Taliban prisoners must submit a “written declaration not to return to the battlefield”.

The decree details how to release Taliban prisoners in a systematic manner. The document indicates that the release of prisoners will begin within four days. “The release of 1,500 Taliban prisoners will be completed within 15 days, with 100 prisoners released daily from Afghan prisons,” the decree said.

It added that the talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government to end the war would be in parallel with the release of the prisoners. The government stated that it would release 500 more Taliban prisoners every two weeks, until the total released amounts to 5,000, if the talks progresses.

The decree indicated that the Taliban must fulfill their commitment to reduce violence during this period and beyond. The release of the prisoners is part of a confidence-building initiative aimed at paving the way for direct talks between the government and the militants to start after the two sides held separate talks with the United States.

The issue has become one of the main sticking points for any progress towards peace, and has been complicated by the varying drafting of documents between the United States and the Taliban on the one hand, and the United States and the Afghan government on the other.

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European requiring Turkey to take migrants back from the Greek borders

European requiring Turkey to take migrants back from the Greek borders

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought greater support from Europe for the war in Syria and for hosting millions of refugees, but he has been told that he must first stop encouraging migrants to cross into Greece.

Erdogan went to Brussels for talks with the European Union and NATO after tensions worsened over the fate of tens of thousands of migrants trying to enter the European Union member Greece since Ankara said last month that it would not try from now on to keep them on its soil.

Turkey hosts about 3.6 million refugees from Syria and halted the extension of immigration to Europe under an agreement it signed with the bloc in 2016, in exchange for aid in billions of euros.

However, it was disappointed by what she considered to be European support for the war in Syria, where a confrontation is taking place between its forces and the Syrian government forces, and where they are suffering increasing losses.
Erdogan said, “The crisis stemming from Syria, with its security and humanitarian aspects, threatens our region and indeed all of Europe … No European country has the luxury of continuing to deal with indifference.”

“We expect tangible support from all our allies in the battle that Turkey is waging alone … NATO is going through a critical stage during which it must show clear support,” he added.

The European Union has nothing to offer regarding military support in Syria, in which it denounced Turkey’s involvement. The 27-nation bloc, where most of the countries are allies of Ankara in the NATO alliance, has waved the option of providing more aid, but on time and with conditions.

“The events on the Greek-Turkish border clearly indicate political pressures on the external borders of the European Union,” European Commission President Ursula von der Line said before the talks with Erdogan.

“A solution to this situation will require reducing the pressure on the borders,” she told a news conference on Monday.
At the same time, the European Union is trying to support Greece, where it says 42,000 migrants are stranded on the islands, including some 5,500 unaccompanied children.

France, Portugal, Finland, Germany, and Luxembourg have offered to receive some of them, and Berlin has said it can receive up to 1,500 minors in total. European Union immigration ministers are due to discuss the issue in Brussels on Friday.

The European Union is keen to avoid a repetition of the migrant crisis that occurred in 2015 and 2016 and witnessed the entry of more than one million refugees, most of them from the Middle East and Asia, to the European Union countries through Turkey and Greece.
The bloc’s 2016 agreement with Turkey largely cut off this flow, an agreement the European Union hopes to save, even though Turkey now fears a new wave of refugees may reach it due to the escalation of fighting in Syria.

The European Union says it has so far paid about half of the pledge, which is six billion euros, to help Turkey provide housing, schools and medical centers for refugees on its soil. The bloc waved the prospect of further aid.

The 2016 agreement also provides for the European Union to receive thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and to give Turks the right to enter the bloc without visas and to make faster progress in Turkey’s accession talks to the union.
But relations between the two sides were strained after a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. The European Union criticized the scope of Erdogan’s security campaign against the opposition after the failed coup and effectively froze Turkey’s bid to join its membership.

“We have clearly expressed to President Erdogan our commitment to make progress on these issues, provided the matter is mutual,” Von der Line said after about 40 minutes of talks.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told in a meeting with Erdogan that the coalition has already invested more than five billion dollars in Turkey, including on military bases and radar sites.

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Warrens withdrawal from Democratic race, Bidens interest, not Sanders’?

Warrens withdrawal from Democratic race, Bidens interest, not Sanders’?

A Reuters / Ipsos poll shows that the withdrawal of candidate Elizabeth Warren from the US Democratic Party race for the presidential election is in the interest of candidate Joe Biden more than his opponent, Bernie Sanders.

The poll was conducted from Friday to Monday and showed that 47 percent of the registered Democrats and independents said they would vote for Biden if the nomination elections were held in their state today, which is seven points higher than a similar poll conducted before Warren suspended her campaign on Thursday.

The results indicate that Warren’s supporters were not attracted to Sanders, her liberal ally on many issues, but rather turned around Biden, who turned the Democratic Race course by winning the South Carolina primary and then winning most of last Tuesday’s big elections.

Six states, including Michigan and Washington, will hold elections on Tuesday.
Warren, Massachusetts state senator, has not announced support for a particular candidate. Other, more moderate withdrawers, including Pete Potdajj, Amy Kloppshark, Michael Bloomberg and Kamala Harris, have announced their support for Biden, who previously served as vice president.

The poll found that nearly six out of every ten Sanders supporters would vote for Biden if he won the Democratic nomination to compete with Republican President Donald Trump in the November 3rd, election.

A Reuters / Ipsos poll was conducted online across the United States, with the participation of 1,114 adult Americans, including 541 people who said they were registered Democrats or independents. The margin of error is five percentage points.

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Lebanon announcing the impossibility of paying the country debts
Middle East & Africa

Lebanon announcing the impossibility of paying the country debts

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced on Saturday that the country would not be able to repay 1.2 billion of its debt due.

Lebanon is crumbling under a debt of 92 billion dollars, or about 170% of its GDP. Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced on Saturday that the country would not be able to repay 1.2 billion of its debt maturing in two days.

“Our foreign exchange reserves have reached a worrying level (…) pushing the Lebanese government to suspend the payment of a debt maturing on March 9,” said Prime Minister Hassan Diab in a live broadcast speach from the local channels. “This is the only way to stop the bleeding (…) with the launch of a vast plan of necessary reforms” including a “reduction in public spending,” added Hassan Diab.

It is the first major decision of the government, formed in January after weeks of demonstrations demanding the departure of a political class unchanged for decades and structural reforms. And this is the first default in the history of Lebanon.

Beirut is facing its worst economic crisis since the end of the civil war (1975-1990), in a context of recession, shortage of liquidity but also of rising prices and persistent unemployment. On March 9, the State was supposed to reimburse 1.2 billion Eurobonds, Treasury bills issued in dollars by the State, part of which is held by the banks and the Central Bank.

Two other repayment deadlines are scheduled in April and June, for a total amount of $ 1.3 billion. Meeting at the presidential palace on Saturday, the Ministers Council ruled in favor of non-payment of its debt after weeks of negotiations. Shortly before, the Head of State, the Prime Minister, the Head of Parliament, the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank had already suggested that the State would not reimburse.

Lebanese banks, which hold a large part of the public debt – including almost half of the 30 billion Eurobonds issued by Lebanon – had recently called on the state to avoid a default, which would deepen their liquidity shortage especially in dollars.

Fearing a depletion of their foreign exchange reserves, banks have already imposed drastic restrictions in recent months, with several establishments capping withdrawals at $ 100 per week and prohibiting money transfers abroad. In Lebanon, the dollar is used daily as the Lebanese pound and the Lebanese fear the acceleration of the loss of value of their currency.

The Lebanese pound, indexed to the greenback since 1997 at the fixed rate of 1,507 pounds for one dollar, recently came close to 2,700 pounds for one dollar on the parallel market, prompting the central bank to issue a circular Friday limiting the rate in offices. exchange rate at 2,000 pounds for one dollar.

The street blames the current situation for a combination of bad policies over the past three decades. The country began to go into massive debt at the end of the civil war to rebuild the country. But in the absence of reforms and good governance, the public deficit has widened, local banks have continued to buy treasury bills and public debt has jumped from a few billion dollars in the early 1990s to more than 90 billion dollars.

At the request of the state, an emergency mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was dispatched last month but no financial assistance from the institution has yet been announced. This Saturday, demonstrators marched in several cities of the country, including Beirut and Tire, in the south of the country.

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Taliban rule out holding Afghan peace talks on time.
Asia Pacific Focus

Taliban rule out holding Afghan peace talks on time.

The Taliban said that peace talks with the Afghan government are unlikely to be held next week because both President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah will hold their own swearing-in ceremony on Monday after the last presidential election and urged political opponents to focus on ending the war instead of that.

The United States is trying to push the Afghan government toward talks with the Taliban, which are set to start on Tuesday under the peace agreement signed between the United States and the militant movement in Doha last month.
But the threat of two parallel governments undermines the nascent peace process to end a war that has killed tens of thousands of people since the United States launched attacks on the country weeks after the September 11th, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

In February, the Afghan election commission announced Ghani’s victory in the September presidential elections, but his arch rival Abdullah said he was the winner and insisted on forming a government.

Both Abdullah and Ghani announced the holding of a legal swearing-in ceremony on Monday, and each of them sent invitations to this effect.
“We do not think they will do this to prepare for talks between Afghans on March 10th,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.

“Instead of taking the oath, we want to focus on conversations between Afghans,” he added. We appeal to them to move away from internal differences, to stop the oath and to work for peace. ”

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